Aussie of the Year: Actor Geoffrey Rush earns high honour

Julia and Geoffrey
Australian of the Year Geoffrey Rush and Prime Minister Julia Gillard pose for a portrait outside Parliament House Canberra 25th January 2012. Pic. National Australia Day Council

On the public lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, Actor and arts supporter Geoffrey Rush was named 2012 Australian of the Year.

Born in Toowoomba, Queensland in 1951, Rush has celebrated 40 years in the arts industry, achieving the rare international distinction of the ‘Triple Crown’ – an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy. Now he adds another trophy to his collection, presented to him today by The Prime Minister, The Hon Julia Gillard MP.

He also has three Australian Film Institute honours, three British Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, four Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, and last year was inducted into the ranks of Australia’s elite with a Helpmann Award.

After moving to Brisbane with his family during primary school years, Rush completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Queensland and made his professional debut at the Queensland Theatre Company in 1971, where he worked as an ensemble member for three years.  For the next 20 years he worked primarily in all the major theatre companies of Australia and, in the mid 1970s went to Paris to study at the prestigious Jacques Lecoq School of Mime, Movement and Theatre.

In the mid 1990s he began his film career. His performance as pianist David Helfgott in the film Shine put him firmly on the world stage and earned him his Oscar for Best Actor.

At the time he received his fourth Academy Award nomination playing Australian therapist Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech, which he also executively produced, the revival of Belvoir’s The Diary of a Madman played to acclaim in Sydney and in New York.

In the past year, he also starred in and executive-produced Fred Schepisi’s film of Patrick White’s Nobel Laureate-winning novel The Eye of the Storm, and played Lady Bracknell in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s celebrated production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Australian of the Year Geoffrey Rush poses for a portrait outside Parliament House Canberra 25th January 2012. Pic. National Australia Day Council

Music theatre fans will also remember his performance as the Man In Chair for MTC’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone, a role which he is rumoured to be reprising for the upcoming film.

Seen as a creative mentor by many, Geoffrey supports young actors and arts companies. He is Patron of the Melbourne International Film Festival; of Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre Foundation distributing bursaries to young performers; and of the Spina Bifida Foundation Victoria. He is an Ambassador for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and UNICEF Australia.

In 2011 he was appointed as foundation President of the newly-established Australian Academy Of Cinema and Television Arts.

An internationally acclaimed and recognised actor, Geoffrey remains extraordinarily grounded in his local community, his country and the Australian arts industry.

“The recipients of the Australian of the Year Awards for 2012 remind us of the great diversity of achievements, talents and contributions in Australia,” said Ian Narev, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than 30 years.

“They inspire us with their commitment, passion and hard work.  We can all feel very proud to call them our fellow Australians.”

Geoffrey Rush and Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng, will take part in the 2012 Australia Day activities by attending the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra. They will then join the Australia Day celebrations in Darling Harbour ahead of a spectacular display of fireworks.

More than 5,000 nominations were received from the public for the 2012 Awards and nominations are already being accepted for the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards.

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Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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